Maverick Traveler

Location Independence, Geo Arbitrage, Individual Freedom

Page 2 of 2

How To Handle Ball Busters and Shit Tests

I was once in a nice cafe in Budapest, Hungary. When the waitress asked for my drink order, I ordered orange juice. The waitress appeared confused, then regained her composure and mumbled few words in response. I assumed she wanted to clarify my order, so I just nodded to my head. She returned and brought me some kind of a smoothie. My friend laughed and said that I ordered the most expensive non-alcoholic drink on the menu. (I checked the menu and the drink was around $6, as opposed to $3 for plain juice. The smoothie ended up being excellent.)

From that point on, my Hungarian friend called me a man “who loves to order the most expensive items on the menu.” He continuously joked about that from that point on to others.

That’s classic ball busting. It’s completely benign, as his purpose wasn’t to start a physical confrontation. It was simply a way to piss me off with the hope that I will feel hurt and retaliate, thus falling into his trap. That would help him to dominate the social setting by making me look weak and defensive and him much strong and confident.

The deeper purpose of such tests is to more intimately understand who you are and what you’re made of. It’s to understand your mindset and to see if you can be easily offended by the most minor accusations. Guys who have spent lots of time being around pretty woman are already accustomed to shit tests, so they know how to pass them easily. Guys that have spent lots of time in the company of men are also accustomed to such tests and easily pass them. Essentially, guys that are confident and high value similarly have no problems sweeping them aside with flying colors.

There are several ways to respond:

  1. Ignore
  2. Deny
  3. Admit and defend
  4. Admit and exaggerate
  5. Redirect
  6. Redirect and exaggerate

Ignoring (1) and denying (2) are popular options for a response. If you ignore your friend’s ball busting attempt, there’s a chance the matter will be dropped once and for all, but there’s also a chance that are your friend will keep pestering you with the hope of a response (see below). If you deny, first you’re lying, and second it shows that you don’t have a sense of humor and/or were also a bit offended.

If a person feels hurt and/or has some self-esteem issues, he or she will immediately jump to Admit and defend (3) and, after admitting that they did order an expensive drink, will defend their actions by stating that they didn’t understand Hungarian and simply assumed that the woman was clarifying the existing order. Well, in reality that’s exactly what happened. You know it and your friend knows this. The problem with this response is that that’s exactly what your friend is bating you to do: to defend your actions. By far, this is the weakest response. There’s really no need to defend anything; you didn’t commit any crime and didn’t “order the most expensive non-alcoholic drink on the menu.”

Admit and exaggerate (4) means admitting what you did and then responding sarcastically. A typical response might be: “yes, I did order the most expensive item on the menu because I love to order the most expensive drinks on every menu and in every restaurant. Simply give me any menu and I’ll immediately order the most expensive items without looking at the rest.”

While sarcasm always sends the point across, using sarcasm is a poor way to mask your limited ability to deal with ball busting remarks. I have a guy friend who always responds in a sarcastic way every time someone ball busts him for his action. American girls love sarcasm as a way to defuse ball-busting situations. That gets real old, real quick. Sarcasm is the first thing people grab on when they feel socially threatened but need to respond. Rookies use it often but pros use it sparingly.

Redirect (5) is a way to immediately flip the script on the person who made the joke. The typical response would be: “Hey, you seem jealous sitting there with your lowly juice while I have an awesome smoothie. If you want, I can give you some.” This is a great response because instead of focusing and defending yourself, you immediately flip the script on the guy who initiated the joke. This is usually enough to get your friend to understand that you’re not some mommy’s boy who gets easily offended. However, if your friend keeps busting your chops about that smoothie, then it’s time to take out the big guns.

Redirect and exaggerate (6) is one such big gun. Instead of simply redirecting onto your friend, you redirect and exaggerate. It’s generally used when options 1, 4 or 5 aren’t enough and your friend keeps hassling you with a joke that’s way past its shelf life. After my friend kept joking with everyone that I only order expensive items on menus, I began to call my friend my restaurant menu advisor.

One night, some friends and I were sitting at a bar, and, as usual, my friend started telling that same old tired story to all his friends. It was ridiculous to hear it for the Nth time, so I patiently let my friend finish. After he finished, I put my arm around him, and, with a coy smile, responded:

As all of you can see, he’s my trusted restaurant menu advisor. He knows exactly how to read restaurant menus and order to cheaper items. He does that for me everywhere we go. If you need restaurant menu advice, he’ll give you a free consultation. Highly recommended.

The group busted out into a loud laugh. After that, every one began joking if he can help them also pick an item of the menu in that restaurant. Soon, he stopped making that joke because he was tired of being solicited for his restaurant menu advisor services. His joke was effectively neutered.

The weapon was to use his own medicine against him. He took a situation (when I mistakenly ordered a more expensive item) and amplified it, making a mountain of a molehill. I took what he did (pointing out that I ordered an expensive item) and also blew it up by declaring him a restaurant menu advisor.

The strategy is exactly the same when dealing with any ball buster, whether it’s a man who’s fighting for social supremacy or a woman who’s testing you to see whether you possess good mating material. Otherwise, you risk—even without consciously realizing—falling into a trap set by your opponent and be immediately branded as someone who lacks social and emotional intelligence, and even worse: weak and helpless.

Become A Real Man #6: Real Men Are Emotional Rocks

[Note: This is a continuation of the Become A Real Man series with new articles live every Monday.  See first five commandments here: 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5]

Most of my friends in US are immigrants, and most have immigrated from Eastern Europe.  A friend who recently moved to the Miami area with his wife recalled initial hardships in the land of opportunity.

The first six months in the new country were unbearably difficult.  So difficult, in fact, that they were on the verge of splitting up many times.  First, it was the difficulty of speaking a new and challenging language.  Neither of them spoke English fluently, so it was a struggle to learn it fast.  Second, finding a nice place to live quickly was nearly impossible without solid references and a decent deposit.  Third, finding a decently paid job where you weren’t treated like a slave wasn’t very easy, either.

They fought with each other constantly, with the wife threatening to get on the first plane home many times.  The husband, however, stood his ground and assured her to look at the big picture, and not give up merely because of some setbacks.

Eventually their perseverance started to pay dividends.  They moved to a nicer house, got better jobs, and and adapted to their new environment.

They’re, for the most part, a happy couple now — a marked change from a year ago when they were busy ripping each other apart.

What are the differences between men and women? Ok, they’re many, probably even too many to mention here.

Now, how about the biggest differences between men and women?  Now, we’re getting closer.

From those bigger differences, one of the bigger ones is, undoubtedly, that men are primarily logical thinkers, while women are primarily emotional thinkers.  Of course, nothing is set in stone, and there’re exist logical thinking women (American lawyers), and emotionally driven men (poets, etc).  But barring these extreme cases, the former situation holds true.

Women are inherently emotional creatures.  That’s what makes them special.  They’re like colorful butterflies, effortlessly moving through life by emotions alone.  One second they can act happy; the next they might be moody; and the very next they might be in full out rage.

Men are very different.  Men are the planners, architects and builders of the world.  We listen to a problem, perhaps consult those closest to us, and make a decision that stands.  Emotions are duly weeded out.

A real man is an emotional rock.

A real man doesn’t believe in small setbacks and fights through the end for a cause he truly believes in.

A real man views emotional outbursts as a weakness and an ability to hold oneself together.

A real man provides the much needed stability and gravity to others whose life is in complete disarray.

He’s the anchor giving refuge to the emotional-driven people around him.

When the world is seemingly crumbling down and the sky is falling, a real man comforts those closest to him by assuring them that tomorrow will be a brand new day — a chance for new beginnings and opportunities.

A real man is a pragmatic man, who perfectly understands that while emotions are a human trait that make us who we are, sometimes we need to see the big picture, and emotions greatly impair our vision of seeing the light at the end of the long, cold, and dark tunnel.

On the other hand, a real man is not some stoic, emotionless being, but he refuses to let emotions control and guide his decisions and therefore his life.

The last time I ran into my friend and his wife last spring in Miami Beach.  They looked great together, and his hot Russian wife couldn’t keep her hands to herself.

Even though she’ll never verbally admit it, she’s very grateful for her husband’s stubbornness of not giving up and seeing the struggle through to the end.  She’s also thankful for his strength in calming her down in times of distress.

And above all, she’s appreciative for the opportunity to have this man by her side, a man who doesn’t let his emotions get the best of him — a real man.

Become A Real Man #3: Real Men Don't Complain

[Previously: Become A Real Man #1: Real Men Cook, Become A Real Man #2: Real Men Have A Plan]

A good friend of mine complains all the time.  He complains about the mundane work his boss makes him do from 9-5 everyday.  He complains about the lack of good women in the city he lives in (rightly so since it’s San Francisco).  He complaints about not having any real friends that he can trust.

Lately our Skype sessions have always circled back about his ex- best friend who recently moved in with a girl, and is now engaged.  Instead of understanding the situation and wishing his friend well, my friend still can’t believe that someone so independent and “cool” has committed to some girl and is no longer hanging out with the “boys” anymore.

He doesn’t understand how could something like that happen and is complaining endlessly about it.  Like a patient friend, I sit there and listen, knowing all too well that any advice on my part will go in one ear and out the other.

I long gave up on telling my buddy that it’s time to understand the situation, wish him well in life, and let him do what he wants to do.

I tell him to quit his job, pack up, and move out of the hellhole he’s now and he’ll be much happier, but he just dismisses my words.  And continues to bitch and complain.

Real men don’t complain.

Complaining is a larger symptom of the lack of understanding of the situation at hand.

Complaining is a way to pushback something that was exerted on you that you didn’t expect and have no control over.

Complaining is a weak way to deal with a situation that has not gone in your favor.

About 5 years ago, when I was contemplating what to do with my life after getting burned out with my soulless existence, I asked another (much more successful friend, who I never seen complain in my life) what should I do.

His response was simple and straight to the point:

“If you don’t like something, change.”

I took his advice, fixed things that were bothering me (shitty job, shitty city, shitty girls) and have never looked back since.

I now realize that everything I do, I have to take full responsibility for.

I don’t complain about the girl I’m with because I know that it was my decision to be with her, and I can always find another one.

I don’t complain about my friends because I always have the choice to decide who my friends should be in the first place.

I don’t complain about the weather because I realize I can hop on the plane and go somewhere sunny and warm.

I don’t complain about my job because I do something that I’m passionate about like working on this site.

Not complaining is knowing freedom.  Freedom to always better any and all situations that life throws your way.  Freedom to know that you’re in the driver seat of your own life.  You control the destiny and not someone else.

When you don’t have freedom and control, all that’s left to do is complain.

So, if you find yourself complaining, look hard for a root cause and fix it.  Because complaining will never remotely solve anything, and real men never complain.

Become A Real Man #2: Real Men Have A Plan

[I started a new weekly series last week about things that polish and complete a man.  Read the Introduction, and Become A Real Man #1: Real Men Cook)]

A friend recently asked me my advice on whether to quit his decently paying job in the Middle East and go back to South America where he was well received, and had a much better time.

I knew he won’t be working there, so I asked him what he’ll be doing all day.

His reply was that he would just hit on girls most of the time, and perhaps study and perfect his already excellent Spanish.

I already knew how it would work out.  He’ll go through a honeymoon period the first couple of weeks or a month, and then would inevitably hit a low when, for instance, he’ll either get tired of chasing girls or have a stream of rejections without nothing to fall back on too.

What you need, I continued, was a plan.  So, don’t go there unless you have one.

A man needs a plan.

Men are builders by nature.  We’ve built civilizations, empires and dynasties.  We’ve built nation states, corporations, and franchises.

All successful men whether they live in their home country or abroad have a plan.

Take away a man’s desire to build and create, and you take away a man’s inner strength.

I’m not saying you need to strive to do something equal to Christopher Columbus or Hernan Cortez.  Any plan is fine as long as it’s something you truly believe in and want to accomplish.

Maybe you want to build the next hot Internet startup or write a great book.  Maybe you want to create a community of people that share your ideas and values.  Maybe you want to open a backpacker hostel in Ecuador to meet likeminded nomads.

Having a plan helps a man stay true to his core values.  Having a plan reminds a man why he’s doing what he’s doing.  Having a plan keeps a man sane during a time of distress and desperation.

When I lived in Mexico, I worked on creating an interactive online guide to Mexico City and surrounding areas.

In Brazil, I practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu everyday and did some online consulting.

In Colombia, I worked on various internet projects including mobile apps.

In Romania, I worked on some other internet projects including a book I’m currently writing.

Going out and meeting beautiful, foreign women is icing on the cake, but it’s not my raison d’etre.  The secret is always having a plan and a purpose.

So, what’s your plan?

The Secret to Speaking A Foreign Language Like A Native

Everybody has their own method of learning a foreign language.  Whether it’s Rosetta Stone, Flash Cards or a million other ways, there’s never a shortage of different techniques or tips for learning how to communicate in a language other than the one you grew up talking to your mom in.

I view one’s competency in a foreign language as something that falls into one of the following three levels.

Level 1 is Basic.  At this level you can ask the very basic things such as ‘Where is the bathroom’ or ‘Can I have the check please’.  It’s the most basic level, but still shows that you did your homework and is certainly better than playing a game of charade.

Level 2 is Conversational.  This is a level where you can freely carry a conversation about what’s on your mind.  Even though you still make gramatical and other errors and you’ll probably have a hard time dealing with very specific topics like calculus, physics or anything of this sort, but for day-to-day things, especially in a social setting, you can express yourself freely.  If you can continuously converse with a friend or girlfriend/boyfriend without ever switching to your native language, then you’re at this level.

Level 3 is Fluency.  This is a level usually reserved for people who are born into the language, or have started learning the language at a very young age.  They know the in’s and out’s of the language.  They know all the idiosyncrasies of the language even without realizing that an idiosyncrasy exists.  The benefits is that you know all the necessary vocabulary, speak with no grammatical errors.  The language flows effortlessly enabling you to engage locals, express yourself freer, and even possibly mask yourself as a local (or at least someone from a neighboring country or state).

I’m fluent in 2 languages and conversational in 2 more.  My native language is Russian, and as I learned English at a young age (10), it’s my second fluent language — pretty much at the same level as my Russian.  My Spanish and Portuguese fall into my conversational camp (although my Portuguese is moving quickly to fluency).

So how do you learn to speak a language like a native?  Easy, you must move to the country and live there for a year or two.

I repeat: you must physically move to the country and live there.  The length will depend on your exposure to the locals.  If you get yourself a significant other and a healthy social circle of local friends, you’ll improve faster;  if you only talk to expats, you’ll move a lot slower.

The main reason is that the key to effectively learning a new language is mimicking local speakers, and not constantly thinking about grammar rules and verb conjugations.

Ten years ago, I was driving to work while listening to a Mexican radio station.  Someone called in, and the host asked the caller, ‘Como le va?’  Having studied Spanish in school, I never heard that expression, but from then on that’s what I started using when asking people how are they doing.  I don’t know/care whether that’s a grammatically correct way to ask, but if a local speaker asked, then it’s good enough for me.

So that’s how I’ve been successful in picking a new language.  That’s my secret.  That’s how I came to dominate Portuguese, and which is why it’s much better than my Spanish.  That’s also considering that I’ve been learning the latter for more than 10 years, and I never took a single class of the former.

I mimic people.  I memorize what people say and why they say it.  I look for their emotions when they say something.  Then I repeat it.  I don’t ask why, or ask them to clarify or even whether something else is correct.  If a local speaker says it, I write it down and say it.

I learn how a baby learns, no questions, no argument.  If a local says it, it’s good enough for me.

That’s why it’s so valuable to surround yourself with locals.  Every time you have a conversation, or ask a question, you’re given a free private language lesson.  It’s there, you just have to listen to it.

My Portuguese is even more potent because I know a lot of slang that exists in particular regions.  I know when to say it, I know why to say it.  I can joke, be sarcastic and be emotional in that language.  I can make someone cry or laugh purely using the language.  That’s true mastery right there.

My Facebook/Twitter feed is littered with Brazilian comments about particular situations.  Whether it’s a funny photo, or an interesting news item, there’s always a valuable language nugget that I will memorize and say it when presented with a similar situation.  You can’t learn this in school.  You can’t learn this from a textbook.

Languages are about having an emotional connection with someone above all else.  What good is a language if you can’t do that?

Newer posts »